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Lucio Fulci at the 1994 Eurofest in London
|Born||17 June 1927|
|Died||13 March 1996 (aged 68)|
|Occupation||Film director, film producer, screenwriter, actor|
Marina Fulci (m. 1958–1969)(her death)
Although he worked in a wide array of genres through a career spanning nearly five decades, including comedy, Spaghetti Western, adventure, science fiction and erotica, he garnered an international cult following for his giallo and horror films. His most notable films include the "Gates of Hell" trilogy − City of the Living Dead (1980), The Beyond (1981) and The House by the Cemetery (1981) − as well as Massacre Time (1966), One on Top of the Other (1969), A Lizard in a Woman's Skin (1971), Don't Torture a Duckling (1972), White Fang (1973), Four of the Apocalypse (1975), Sette note in nero (1977), Zombi 2 (1979), Contraband (1980), The Black Cat (1981), The New York Ripper (1982), Murder Rock (1984) and A Cat in the Brain (1990). Because of the high level of visceral graphic violence present in many of his films, especially Zombi 2 and The Beyond, Fulci is frequently referred to as "The Godfather of Gore", a title also given to Herschell Gordon Lewis.
Life and career
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Fulci was born in Rome on 17 June 1927. After studying medicine in college and being employed for a time as an art critic, he opted for a film career, first as a director of documentaries, then a screenwriter working initially in the Italian comedy field, and later as a director beginning with I Ladri in 1959. In the 1960s, Fulci wrote or directed around 18 Italian comedies, many of them starring the famous Italian comedian team of Franco Franchi and Ciccio Ingrassia.
Most of these early films did not enjoy wider distribution in English-speaking markets, and are thus generally unavailable in English. Fulci's first film to be distributed theatrically in the USA was Oh! Those Most Secret Agents! in 1965. Only four of his other 1960s films were released in the U.S.: Massacre Time (as The Brute and the Beast in 1968), The Man Who Killed Billy the Kid (as I'll Kill Him and Return Alone in 1968), Una sull'altra (as One on Top of the Other in 1973) and Beatrice Cenci (as Conspiracy of Torture, in 1976).
In 1969, he moved into directing giallo thrillers such as A Lizard in a Woman's Skin and Sette note in nero (The Psychic), and Spaghetti Westerns such as Silver Saddle and Four of the Apocalypse, all of which were commercially successful and controversial in their depictions of graphic violence. Some of the special effects in A Lizard in a Woman's Skin involving mutilated dogs in a vivisection room were so realistic, Fulci was dragged into court and charged with animal cruelty, until he produced the artificial canine puppets that were used in the film (created by special effects maestro Carlo Rambaldi).
His first film to gain significant notoriety in his native country, Don't Torture a Duckling, combined scathing social commentary with the director's trademark graphic violence. Fulci had a Catholic upbringing and referred to himself as a Catholic. Despite this, some of his movies (Beatrice Cenci, Don't Torture a Duckling, City of the Living Dead, etc.) have been viewed as having very anti-Catholic sentiment. In one of his films, a priest is depicted as a serial child killer, while in another film, a priest commits suicide by hanging himself in a cemetery and is later reincarnated as a demon.
In 1979, he achieved his international breakthrough with Zombi 2, a violent zombie film that was marketed in European territories as a sequel to George Romero's Dawn of the Dead/ Zombi (1978). He followed it up with several other horror films, also featuring zombies, which were popular horror film trope of the time. His features released from 1979 through 1982 (most of them scripted by famed Italian screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti) were described by some critics as being among the most violent and gory films ever made. City of the Living Dead (1980), The Beyond (1981), The House by the Cemetery (1981), The Black Cat (1981), The New York Ripper (1982) and Manhattan Baby (1982) were among his biggest hits, all of which were noted for their extreme content and significant amount of gore.
Several of Fulci's movies released in America were edited by the film distributor to ensure an R rating, such as The Beyond, which was originally released on video in severely edited form as Seven Doors of Death. Others were released Unrated in order to avoid an X-rating (as with Zombi 2 and House by the Cemetery) which would have restricted the films' target audiences to adults. The unrated films often played worldwide in drive-ins and grindhouses where they developed a cult following. Many of Fulci's horror films tend to contain "injury to the eye" sequences, in which a character's eyeball is either pierced or pulled out of its socket, usually in lingering, close-up detail.
Several of Fulci's movies were prohibited in Europe or were released in heavily cut versions. Of the original 72 films on the infamous video nasty list in the United Kingdom, three belonged to Fulci: Zombi 2 (1979), The Beyond (1981), and House by the Cemetery (1981). After viewing Fulci's The New York Ripper, not only did the British Board of Film Classification refuse the film a certificate, but every single print in the country was taken to an airport and returned to Italy by order of James Ferman; it was not until later that VIPCO allowed the release of the film, initially outsourcing production to a foreign source under police supervision before releasing a VHS in 2002 and a DVD in 2007.
After collaborating with screenwriter Sacchetti for six years, Fulci went off on his own in 1983 to direct the movie Conquest (a Conan-like barbarian fantasy) in Mexico, failing to involve Sacchetti in the deal. The film did poorly upon its release, and afterwards, Fulci had trouble jump-starting his working relationship with Sacchetti, who by that time had gone his own way.
Fulci became ill from hepatitis in 1984, right after he finished directing Murder Rock in New York City, and had to be hospitalized in Italy for many months. Fulci spent most of 1984 hospitalized with cirrhosis, and much of 1985 recuperating at home. After 1986, with his diabetes plaguing him and the departure of screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti from Fulci's circle of friends, Fulci's endeavors as a director suffered.
In 1988, he had directed about two-thirds of Zombi 3 in the Philippines before having to return abruptly to Italy due to a second bout of hepatitis. The film was finished by an un-credited Bruno Mattei. Fulci later said that he hated the finished product and tried unsuccessfully to get his name removed from the credits. Mattei has said in interviews that the film was Fulci's, and that he (Mattei) just added a few extra scenes to pad out the running time.
In 1989, Fulci was hired to direct a pair of made-for-TV horror movies for the Italian market, neither of which aired in Italy due to the high amount of gore and violence. They were released later on DVD, however, outside of Italy. Fulci's intended comeback films Demonia and A Cat in the Brain were produced in 1990. Both films struggled to see release and were considered critical disappointments. His final project, the 1991 psychological thriller The Door to Silence, based on one of his short stories, also received poor reviews. The release of this film is seen by some as the critical lowest point of his career.
In the last decade of his life, Fulci suffered from emotional and physical health problems, reflected by a marked decline in the quality of his work. Fulci suffered during the late 1980s from severe problems with his feet, caused by diabetes. He hid the severity of his illness from his friends and associates, so that he would not be deemed unemployable. His wife's suicide in 1969 always weighed heavily on him (his wife Marina had killed herself with a gas oven after learning she had inoperable cancer). People who knew Fulci well spoke of a 3rd daughter he had once had who he said was killed in a car accident in the 1970s, but this story was never confirmed, and the daughter's name was never revealed by any of his biographers. Fulci biographer Stephen Thrower wrote "....the suicide of his wife in 1969 was followed not long after by the death of a daughter in a road accident."  Dario Argento is quoted in one book as saying of Fulci "His life was terrible. His wife committed suicide, and his daughter was paralyzed because of an accident."
Between 1987 and 1989, Fulci made a deal with producers Antonio Lucidi and Luigi Nannerini to lend his name to the credits of some low-budget horror films that he had not even directed, simply to make the films more marketable to distributors. Although he did supervise the special gore effects in The Murder Secret, and directed some additional footage to lengthen the running time of Hansel and Gretel, he was hardly at all involved with some of the other projects which nonetheless bore the "Lucio Fulci Presents" label on their video display boxes. Fulci tried unsuccessfully to have his name removed from the credits of one film in particular, Gianni Martucci's The Red Monks since he swore he had had no involvement with the project (the film's producer Pino Buricchi begged him to let them put his name in the credits). The following year, in reciprocation for the use of his name, Fulci was permitted to use gore footage culled from these various films to make his infamous A Cat in the Brain.
It could be argued that at his peak, Fulci's fame and popularity were on a par with that of Dario Argento, another famous Italian horror film director whom Fulci had avoided working with as a result of Fulci publicly criticizing Argento from time to time. Fulci was most likely resentful of Argento since Argento had always received critical acclaim and recognition in Italy and abroad, whereas Fulci had been regarded there as something of a horror film hack. Fulci always joked that when he died, the Italian newspapers would all misspell his name, if they even mentioned him at all.
Fulci and Argento met in 1994 and agreed to collaborate on a horror film called The Wax Mask, a remake of the 1953 Vincent Price horror classic House of Wax, also based on a story called "The Waxwork Museum" by Gaston Leroux. Argento claimed he had heard about Fulci's miserable circumstances at the time and wanted to offer him a chance at a comeback. It is said that Argento was shocked at how thin and sickly Fulci appeared at their meeting at the 1994 Rome Fanta Festival, and said he felt very sorry for him.
Fulci and his collaborator Danielle Stroppa wrote a plot synopsis and a screenplay for Argento, and Argento kept trying to get them to increase the violence and gore quotient, against Fulci's wishes strangely. (Stroppa had co-written two of Fulci's earlier films, The House of Clocks and Voices from Beyond). Fulci was slated to also direct the film, but sadly he died before filming could begin, due to a series of delays caused by Argento's involvement with his own project, The Stendhal Syndrome, at the time. Wax Mask was eventually directed by former special effects artist Sergio Stivaletti. The screenplay was entirely reworked by Stivaletti after Fulci's death, so the finished film contains significant changes to Fulci's original screenplay. Argento also hired Fulci's daughter Antonella to serve as an assistant art director on the film.
Lucio Fulci died alone, in his sleep, in his apartment in Rome at around 2 P.M. on the afternoon of March 13, 1996, from diabetes-related complications at the age of 68. Toward the end of his life, Fulci had lost his house and was forced to move into a small apartment. Since Fulci had been so despondent in his later years, some believed that he may have intentionally allowed himself to die by not taking his diabetes medications, but this is controversial. Dario Argento paid for Fulci's funeral arrangements.
Fulci's films had remained generally ignored or dismissed for many years by the mainstream critics, who regarded his work as exploitation. However, genre fans appreciated his films as being stylish exercises in extreme gore. At least one of his films, The Beyond, has "amassed a large and dedicated following". In 1998, The Beyond was re-released to theaters by Quentin Tarantino, who has often cited the film, and Fulci himself, as a major source of inspiration. Fulci's earlier, lesser-known giallo Don't Torture a Duckling (1972) received some critical acclaim as well. Fulci regarded two of his films, Don't Torture a Duckling and Beatrice Cenci, as his best work, and considered both Zombi 2 and The Beyond as the two films that forever catapulted him to cult film stardom. His daughter Camilla Fulci served as an assistant director on his last five films (from 1989-1991) and has gone on to become an assistant director in the Italian film industry.
Fulci made an appearance at the January 1996 Fangoria Horror Convention in New York City, two months before his death. Walking on crutches with a bandaged foot, he told attendees that he had had no idea his films were so popular outside of his native Italy, as hordes of starstruck gore fans braved blizzard conditions that weekend to meet him.
Fulci vs. Sacchetti
Fulci and screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti share many screen credits from 1977 to 1983. Indeed, most of Fulci's most celebrated horror films were written by Sacchetti. After collaborating with Sacchetti for six years, Fulci went off on his own in 1983 to direct Conquest in Mexico, failing to involve Sacchetti in the deal. The film was supposed to be a high budget production, and Sacchetti allegedly resented the fact that Fulci had not thought to involve him in the project. The film actually wound up doing quite poorly upon its release, and afterwards, Fulci had trouble jump-starting his working relationship with Sacchetti, who by this time had gone his own way.
In 1987, Fulci accused Sacchetti of stealing a story idea of his, a project which they were planning to do together in 1983 after Fulci returned from Mexico. He claimed that Sacchetti later allowed director Lamberto Bava to direct the project (under the title Per Sempre / Until Death) in 1987 without Fulci's knowledge that the film was even being made. Luca M. Palmerini and Gaetano Mistretta's book Spaghetti Nightmares, publishes two full interviews, one with Fulci and one with Sacchetti, explaining the reasons for the fallout.
Fulci's version is as follows: "One day I told Dardano the plot of my Evil Comes Back (later retitled Per Sempre/Until Death), a sequel on a fantastic note to The Postman Always Rings Twice, and he proposed it to several producers with my name on it as the director. Then, one day, he registered the screenplay with his name on it! (laughs) I later found out that he'd sold the story idea to a producer (Sergio Martino), but, in view of our past friendship, I decided not to sue him. I just broke off all relations with him. He is indeed a very good scriptwriter though."
Sacchetti's version differs: "When I proposed to Lucio my original treatment for Per Sempre, which was nothing more than a sequel to The Postman Always Rings Twice in which a dead man returns to life, he became really enthusiastic and had my story read by a producer friend of his who then commissioned me to write a finished script. At that time, Fulci assumed that he would direct it. Later, for various reasons, problems arose and the film was never made. Four years later, (Lamberto) Bava used my script to make Per Sempre and Fulci, who was not working much at the time, got angry with me and started hurling these accusations. It's one thing for him to say that we were originally supposed to make the film together, but to claim that he originated the story and that I stole it from him is pure science fiction".
|1950||The Last Days of Pompeii (1950 film)||Yes (co-director)||Italian: Gli ultimi giorni di Pompei|
|1953||L'uomo, la bestia e la virtù||Yes (assistant director)||Yes (co-writer)||English: Man, Beast and Virtue|
|1953||Ci troviamo in galleria||Yes||English: Let's Meet in the Gallery; a.k.a.Une fille formidable|
|1954||Un giorno in pretura||Yes (assistant director)||Yes||English: A Day in Court.|
|1954||Un americano a Roma||Yes||English: An American in Rome|
|1955||Piccola posta||Yes||English: The Letters Page|
|1955||La ragazza di via Veneto||Yes||English: The Girl from Veneto Street|
|1955||Io sono la primula rossa||Yes||English: I Am The Most Wanted|
|1955||Totò all'inferno||Yes||English: Toto in Hell|
|1955||Le avventure di Giacomo Casanova||Yes||English: The Adventures of Giacomo Casanova; a.k.a.The Sins of Casanova|
|1958||Guardia, ladro e cameriera||Yes||English: Cop, Thief and Maid|
|1958||Totò nella luna||Yes||English: Toto On The Moon|
|1959||I ladri||Yes||Yes||English: The Thieves|
|1959||Ragazzi del Juke-Box||Yes||Yes||English: Jukebox Kids|
|1960||Urlatori alla sbarra||Yes||English: Howlers in the Dock|
|1961||Totò, Peppino e... la dolce vita||Yes||English: Totò, Peppino and the Sweet Life|
|1961||Letto a tre piazze||Yes||English: The King-Sized Bed|
|1962||Colpo gobbo all'italiana||Yes||English: Getting Away With It...Italian Style|
|1962||I due della legione||Yes||Yes||English: Those Two in the Foreign Legion|
|1962||Le massaggiatrici||Yes||English: The Masseuses|
|1963||Uno strano tipo||Yes||Yes||English: A Strange Type|
|1963||Gli imbroglioni||Yes||Yes||English: The Swindlers|
|1964||I maniaci||Yes||English: The Maniacs|
|1964||I due evasi di Sing Sing||Yes||Yes||English: Two Escapees from Sing Sing|
|1964||I due pericoli pubblici||Yes||Yes||English: The Two Public Enemies; a.k.a.Two Dangerous Agents|
|1964||002 agenti segretissimi||Yes||Yes||a.k.a.Oh! Those Most Secret Agents (USA); (Fulci's first film to be dubbed & theatrically distributed in the USA)|
|1965||Come inguaiammo l'esercito||Yes||English: How We Got Into Trouble with the Army; a.k.a. I due marmittoni (The Two Rookies)|
|1965||002 operazione Luna||Yes||English: 002 Operation Moon; a.k.a.Dos cosmonautas a la fuerza (Two Unwilling Cosmonauts). (story)|
|1965||I due parà||Yes||Yes||English: The Two Parachutists|
|1966||Come svaligiammo la banca d'Italia||Yes||Yes||English: How We Robbed the Bank of Italy|
|1966||Massacre Time||Yes||Italian: Le colt cantarono la morte e fu...tempo di massacro; a.k.a.Colt Concert, a.k.a.The Brute and the Beast (USA); (dubbed & distributed theatrically in the USA in 1968)|
|1967||Come rubammo la bomba atomica||Yes||English: How We Stole the Atomic Bomb|
|1967||Il lungo, il corto, il gatto||Yes||English: The Long, The Short, The Cat; a.k.a. The Tall, The Short, The Cat|
|1967||El hombre que mató a Billy el Niño||Yes||English: The Man Who Killed Billy the Kid; a.k.a. A Few Bullets More, a.k.a.I'll Kill Him and Return Alone (USA); (dubbed & distributed in the USA in 1968)|
|1967||Operazione San Pietro||Yes||Yes||English: Operation Saint Peter's|
|1968||I due crociati||Yes||English: The Two Crusaders|
|1969||Double Face||Yes||Italian: A doppia faccia; a.k.a.Liz and Helen; a.k.a. Das Gesicht im Dunkeln / The Face in the Dark, a.k.a.Chaleur et jouissance / Heat and Pleasure (a more adult re-edit); directed by Riccardo Freda (Fulci only contributed to the plotting)|
|1969||Una sull'altra (One on Top of the Other)||Yes||Yes||Translation: One on Top of the Other; a.k.a.Perversion Story; (released theatrically in USA in 1973)|
|1969||Beatrice Cenci||Yes||Yes||a.k.a.The Conspiracy of Torture (USA); (released theatrically in USA in 1976)|
|1971||A Lizard in a Woman's Skin||Yes||Yes||Italian: Una lucertola con la pelle di donna; a.k.a.Schizoid, a.k.a.Carole|
|1972||Hector the Mighty||Yes||Italian: Ettore lo fusto|
|1972||The Eroticist||Yes||Yes||Italian: All'onorevole piacciono le donne (Nonostante le apparenze... e purché la nazione non lo sappia) (Translation: The Senator Likes Women...Despite Appearances and Provided the Nation Doesn't Know)|
|1972||Don't Torture a Duckling||Yes||Yes||Italian: Non si sevizia un paperino; a.k.a.The Long Night of Exorcism|
|1973||White Fang||Yes||Italian: Zanna Bianca|
|1974||Challenge to White Fang||Yes||Yes||Italian: Il ritorno di Zanna Bianca / The Return of White Fang|
|1975||Dracula in the Provinces||Yes||Italian: Il cavaliere Costante Nicosia demoniaco, ovvero: Dracula in Brianza, a.k.a.Young Dracula|
|1975||Four of the Apocalypse||Yes||Italian: I quattro dell'apocalisse|
|1976||La Pretora (The Magistrate)||Yes||a.k.a.My Sister in Law|
|1977||Sette note in nero (The Psychic)||Yes||Yes||a.k.a.The Psychic; a.k.a.Murder to the Tune of Seven Black Notes|
|1978||Silver Saddle||Yes||Italian: Sella d'argento; a.k.a.They Died With Their Boots On|
|1979||Zombi 2||Yes||a.k.a.Zombie, a.k.a.Zombie Flesh Eaters, a.k.a.Island of the Living Dead|
|1980||Un uomo da ridere||Yes||English: A Man To Laugh At (Italian TV documentary, never dubbed in English)|
|1980||Contraband||Yes||Yes||Italian: Luca il contrabbandiere / Luca the Smuggler; a.k.a.The Naples Connection|
|1980||City of the Living Dead||Yes||Yes||Yes||Italian: Paura nella città dei morti viventi; a.k.a.The Gates of Hell, a.k.a.Frayeurs|
|1981||The Black Cat||Yes||Yes||Italian: Black Cat (Gatto Nero)|
|1981||The Beyond||Yes||Yes||Italian: ...E tu vivrai nel terrore! L'aldilà; a.k.a.Seven Doors of Death (edited video release)|
|1981||The House by the Cemetery||Yes||Yes||Italian: Quella villa accanto al cimitero; a.k.a.Zombie Hell House, a.k.a.Freudstein|
|1982||The New York Ripper||Yes||Yes||Italian: Lo squartatore di New York|
|1982||Manhattan Baby||Yes||Italian: L'occhio del male (The Evil Eye); a.k.a.Eye of the Evil Dead, a.k.a.Possessed|
|1983||Conquest||Yes||Spanish: Conquista de la Tierra Perdida / Conquest of the Lost Land (filmed in Mexico)|
|1983||The New Gladiators||Yes||Yes||Italian: I guerrieri dell'anno 2072 / Warriors of the Year 2072; a.k.a.Rome 2072: The Fighter Centurions|
|1983||Murder Rock||Yes||Yes||Italian: Murderock - Uccide a passo di danza; a.k.a.Murder Rock Dancing Death, a.k.a.The Demon is Loose! (filmed in NY City)|
|1985||La gabbia (The Trap)||Yes||a.k.a.The Cage, a.k.a.Collector's Item, a.k.a.Dead Fright (Fulci co-wrote this film, but did not direct it)|
|1986||The Devil's Honey||Yes||Yes||Italian: Il miele del diavolo; a.k.a.Dangerous Obsession (Fulci's comeback film after his illness)|
|1987||Aenigma||Yes||Yes||No Italian title (filmed entirely in Yugoslavia)|
|1987||The Curse||Yes||a.k.a.The Farm (directed by David Keith; Fulci only worked on the special effects & co-produced the film)|
|1988||Zombi 3||Yes||Completed by Bruno Mattei after Fulci became ill (filmed entirely in the Philippines)|
|1988||Touch of Death||Yes||Yes||Italian: Quando Alice ruppe lo specchio / When Alice Broke the Mirror, a.k.a.When Alice Broke the Looking Glass|
|1988||Sodoma's Ghost||Yes||Yes||Italian: Il fantasma di Sodoma; a.k.a.The Ghosts of Sodom|
|1989||Night Club||Yes||No Italian title; Fulci co-wrote the story on which the screenplay was based|
|1989||The Sweet House of Horrors||Yes||Yes||Italian: La dolce casa degli orrori; made for Italian TV|
|1989||The House of Clocks||Yes||Yes||Italian: La casa nel tempo / The House of Time; made for Italian TV|
|1990||A Cat in the Brain||Yes||Yes||Italian: Un gatto nel cervello; a.k.a.Nightmare Concert|
|1991||Voices from Beyond||Yes||Yes||Italian: Voci dal profondo / Voices From The Deep|
|1991||Door to Silence||Yes||Yes||Italian: Le porte del silenzio; a.k.a. El Enigma de la Muerte, produced by Joe D'Amato|
|1997||The Wax Mask||Yes||a.k.a.MDC: Maschera di cera, a.k.a.Wax Mask (released posthumously)|
Films "presented" by Lucio Fulci
- The Murder Secret (1988, a.k.a.Non avere paura della zia Marta / Don't Be Afraid of Aunt Martha, a.k.a.Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things, a.k.a. El espejo roto) – Fulci supervised the gore effects on this film which was written and directed by Mario Bianchi, and was credited as co-producer.
- The Red Monks (1988, a.k.a. I Frati Rossi, a.k.a. Sexorgien der roten Mönche) Fulci fought in vain to have his name removed from this film's credits; the film was directed by Gianni Martucci whom Fulci claimed he never even met. Fulci was credited with handling the film's special effects, which he later denied having been involved with.
- Hansel and Gretel (1989, a.k.a. Non Si Seviziano i Bambini / Don't Torture the Children, a.k.a. Die saat des teufels/ The Devil's Seed) Fulci later directed additional footage that was inserted into this Giovanni Simonelli film to lengthen its running time. This film was never dubbed in English.
- Massacre/ Massacro (1989, a.k.a. La morte della medium/ The Death of the Medium; a.k.a. Remember Dr. Jekyll) – Fulci lent his name as co-producer on this film written and directed by Andrea Bianchi, although he claimed he was hardly involved at all with making it. This film was never dubbed in English.
- Bloody Psycho (1989, a.k.a.The Snake House, a.k.a. Pesadilla Sangrienta, a.k.a.Lo Specchio / The Mirror, a.k.a.Nel Nido del Serpente / In the Nest of the Serpent) – Fulci lent his name as co-producer on this film directed by Leandro Luchetti; Fulci's involvement is dubious. This film was never dubbed in English.
- Escape from Death/ Fuga dalla Morte (1989, a.k.a. Luna di Sangue/ Moon of Blood) – Fulci lent his name as co-producer on this film directed by Enzo Milioni; Fulci's involvement is dubious. This film was never dubbed in English.
|1983||Fantasporto Film Festival||International Fantasy Film Award||The House by the Cemetery||Nominated|
|1986||Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival||Fear Section Award||Murder Rock||Won|
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